As part of the HandsOnTurkish project, we have developed a new and innovative system of certification for language learning. This article explains what digital badges and digital certification are, how they are related to language learning; the article also provides  information how we built our system.

Certification has always been a key element of education and a prerequisite to entering certain professions or acquiring certain job roles. With the growing ubiquitousness of online business networking profiles (such as LinkedIn), digital certification is all the more important for courses and educational institutions and especially for job-seekers and potential employers.

Creating a digital certificate is a complicated process – it is not just a .jpg file or digital image of a paper certificate.

It needs to be secure, accurate, verifiable, linked to the correct user and have all the relevant information regarding its value.

Our colleague, Jeroen Lichtenauer, is fairly confident that the system we built is more complex than a digital currency or crypto-currency such as BitCoin.

Unsurprisingly, this means – from a security and technical point of view – working with some large numbers and sizes that only computers can calculate. You can read more about that here.

Development

Initially, the digital certification was developed for the “First Steps in Turkish” course, which is a short (12 hour), online introductory course of the Turkish language and Turkish culture. This was deemed to be the ideal testing ground. However, the system will also be extended to and applied to the full 200 hour course.

The First Steps in Turkish course is already accessible on the Hands On Turkish website. Learners have the option of entering the course without any registration. This is to ensure that as large a number of users as possible have an unrestricted opportunity to try out the language without any obligations. This is particularly important for people to see whether the language interests them and whether the course content and structure meet their needs. They can, if they want, complete the entire course without registering – and without being distracted and harassed by adverts (something the project partners feel strongly about).

However, those learners who do wish to have their learning recognised will need to register an account on the site. The registration is needed so that a learner can log in and, subsequently, so that our system can start monitoring their progress as they proceed through the course and register the time spent on the course, information which will be used as evidence for the certificate. Any data is, of course, securely protected on the servers, is accessible only by the learner and only serves to measure the learner’s progress.

The tracking process calculates the time spent on the course together with the learner’s interaction and then compares them both to the minimum expected interaction required for each step. Basically, it means that a learner can’t log in, spend 12 hours staring at the ceiling and drinking tea, coffee or juice – and then claim a certificate. Although the system is by no means regimented, the learner does have to satisfy some fair and reasonable requirements in order to complete the course. The system, for example, won’t take into account if you make mistakes during your learning process.

Upon completion of the online course, learners can then apply for a certificate. They must first take the online test to prove that they have indeed learnt the course content. This is a 40 minute test which covers listening, reading and writing. Each section is weighted according to its importance. For example, achieving a correct answer in the writing section is more difficult than in the reading section. However, because writing is not as important for an absolute beginner and their immediate linguistic needs, writing actually has fewer points. It is, in fact, more important that a beginner can read and understand new words, and this is reflected in the points system.

After successfully completing the test, learners will be awarded a certificate and a digital badge. This is a unique URL, which learners can easily add – with a click of a button – to their LinkedIn profiles or Mozilla’s Opensource BackPack accounts. Future employers or educational institutions can automatically gauge the level of achievement as our course is already referenced to the Common European Framework for Modern Languages (CEF) and European Qualifications Framework (EQF).

Certificates, levels and equality

Why are the CEF and the EQF important? Both frameworks are internationally recognised standards for assessing language learning achievements. Both are, incidentally, also fundamental to the free movement of people within the EU – a core value (and a hot topic). Previously, countries could indirectly erect protectionist measures for employment by not recognising qualifications from other nations – thereby reducing the chances of foreign job-seekers. These pan-European frameworks, for vocational learners now subsumed under the banner of ECVET, ensure that all EU qualifications are accurately referenced and ranked, just like currencies in a bureau de change.

Regardless of whether a user is looking for a job or further education opportunities abroad, it is a fair system for everyone. This is beneficial to both the employee and employer and indeed, on a wider scale, to any successful economic zone. It also means that people, especially professionals, can get the legitimate recognition for educational endeavours that are undertaken outside formal education, just as with the First Steps in Turkish course.

The Hands On Turkish digital certification is transparent and uses technology to improve a well-established system of certification. Should a potential employer, for example, wish to verify the achievement of a particular individual or find out more about a particular course an individual has undertaken, he or she can follow the link on the LinkedIn profile and immediately view and verify the unique URL which contains the certificate, criteria, grades and achievements.

The online profile remains anonymous, but the identity can be verified by entering of the holder’s email address. This means that the anonymity of an individual cannot be abused by someone else.

Earning and receiving a certificate

Once learners have received their certificates, they can log into their HandsOnTurkish account and go to “My certificates”. There the certificate will look something like this:

Turkish_certificate_handson

This, incidentally, is my personal certificate, which I was awarded and which I received from the project. Mind you, I still had to take the test! I managed to pass the test with a score of 70%. So I hope this encourages more people to try.

As you can see, the core information is included. This certificate can be uploaded straight onto a LinkedIn Profile with the click of a button. The URL to the certificate can also be share directly with others, so they can view the certificate.

An example of the certificate on a LinkedIn profile, which adds real value to any CV, is given below.

Turkish language certificate

Alternatively, it is possible to ‘bake a badge’ and add the badge to a BackPack account, which is an opensource initiative from Mozilla.

Verification

See for yourself: Click here to verify this badge.

Of course, if you want to double-check that this digital certificate is really mine and I earned it, then you will need my email address.

Getting your Turkish Language Certificate

The First Steps in Turkish language certificate is available to everybody. Not only can you learn a fascinating new language with our interactive online course, you can also gain the certificate and showcase your achievements on your profiles and to potential employers. Why not give it a try!

We are extremely pleased to be able to announce this news. A special mention must be given to the following colleagues: Udo Hennig and Carl Taylor, who did a lot of ground research for the certification and the referencing of the content to the CEF, John Angliss for assisting with the Turkish language test and Jeroen Lichtenauer, whose technical expertise was responsible for the implementation of this new innovative system.

Neal Taylor is one of the developers of HandsOnTurkish. He writes regularly about the project, business developments and language learning.

 

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HandsOnTurkish is an innovative online course of the Turkish language and culture and has been developed with support from the European Commission. Learn Turkish online or download the apps and start working towards your certificate for the Turkish language!

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